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PrettyQueer.com | January 28, 2015

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Just Call Me Hunter, Maybe Then You’ll Sleep With Me

Just Call Me Hunter, Maybe Then You’ll Sleep With Me
Morgan M. Page

What passes for community events now are shows about gender that feature the works of cis women and trans men, with trans women nowhere to be found.

Someone asks me to join a project, and I check the top of the email to see who’s cc’d on it, who’s involved. Nine people, all trans men that I know. I look hard at the screen and try to think of any other trans women activists in the city who could get involved.

No, no, not her, she’s too difficult to interact with.

And her, she’s been blackballed after that incident.

She might do, if only she’d learn to listen to other people in the room.

I’m the only trans woman invited because they know that I listen, that I have all the approved strong opinions, and that I have identity markers that make them feel better about interacting with me (former sex worker, culturally other, high school drop out, survivor). And, mostly, because they would feel bad if they didn’t involve at least one trans woman.

I’m nostalgic for a time in Toronto trans history, just before my own, when trans women activists were considered important, valued voices. Women like Mirha-Soleil Ross and Viviane Namaste (both gone off to greener pastures in Montreal now) and Christina Strang, who are fierce and brilliant and groundbreaking. These women had a voice. They created incredible programs (some of which I now run today), curated trans art shows that featured the works of people all along the spectrum, and were, in general, total bad-asses.

It’s not like there aren’t trans women activists and artists in the city anymore. They’ve simply been blackballed or written off by all of the major players, all of whom are trans masculine. I’m not saying that it’s without reason, there are often a multitude of completely legitimate reasons why no one wants to work with so-and-so. It just starts to feel a bit weird when there are maybe two trans women in the city that these guys can “deal with.”

What passes for community events now are shows about gender that feature the works of cis women and trans men, with trans women nowhere to be found. Do we have nothing to say about gender? Are there no trans women artists? It takes me long, hard minutes to name more than three in this city — three that are known and appreciated, that is. Three that haven’t been effectively excommunicated.

Maybe I’m part of the problem. I must on some level be complicit with my own tokenization. I agree with many of the blackballings. I, too, find it difficult to interact with some of these women. Bringing them in to activist efforts and community organizing often has the effect of silencing others in the room, or causing derailing arguments that halt all progress on projects.

The sexism and transmisogyny I’ve faced in local trans activist circles has had the curious effect of making me consider changing my name to Hunter and binding my breasts. I’ve recently been seriously talking about changing my identity to trans man, because it makes way more sense in terms of who I hang out with and the politics I have and it also gets me hit on more. Because, in this city (as elsewhere, I’m told), trans women are to be shunned and trans men are to be celebrated. Trans women are unfuckable to cis dykes and trans men, and trans men are hypersexualized by everyone except cis gay men (though, with the rise of Buck Angel and other trans masculine porn performers, that’s slowly began to shift).

I think the reason this is such a recurrent thought for me is because I feel alone. I do not feel like part of this trans men’s community (if we’re going to just call it what it is, rather than pretend that we mean “the trans community”), yet there is no likeminded trans women’s community for me to identify with. I am suffering from a lack of images. There seems to be no current positive image in Toronto, at least, for a trans woman artist-activist type. Images of trans man artist-activist types abound and are celebrated.

The question becomes for me, how can I create new images? How can I break down these transmisogynist stereotypes and cultivate up-and-coming trans women activists and artists? It is something that I can’t do on my own, unfortunately. It requires trans men, cis dyke ‘allies,’ and trans women to all work together to start examining where these problems are happening (everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom – and let’s think especially about the bedroom, which is, according to a friend of mine, “the final frontier of social justice”), and to start including and valuing trans women in our communities and, especially, in our personal lives.

Because, frankly, it’s too damn hot out for me to start wearing a binder just to get some respect around here.

Comments

  1. Snarkysmachine

    I love that you put “allies” in a scare quote. That’s how I feel about them. In my community a couple of bad ass chicks (trans and cis women of color, but we certainly welcome all marginalized women) are carving out our own little gang because we’ve been othered, devalued in many queer spaces we seek to occupy. The lack of positive imagery – and let’s face it: fucktastic imagery – is an astute point because desirability is the engine of social change more than anything (at least it’s been my experience). I also am feeling the whole “right kind of marginalized person” because it does seem like the only way in certain spaces as a marginalized within the marginalized is by having the pre-approved lived experience narrative.

    I did that thing I hate whenever people do. I should have said, “you fucking rock. Come make food with us!”

    • Tess

      “desirability is the engine of social change more than anything” — Depressing, but it’s been my hunch that a lot of activism wouldn’t happen if there wasn’t a level of sex appeal attached to it: either a sexy cause, sexy people, or an increased chance of getting laid. Beat (off to) ‘em or join ‘em?

      • J.A. B.

        I believe it is important to distinguish between people who actually strive to be actual allies, and either succeed to some degree or fail completely; and people who want to be “allies” because it’s “cool” and will totally earn them respect, admiration, nookie etc. from the oppressed group whose “ally” they’re trying/pretending to be, which IMO is just a dishonest, veiled (although often pretty transparent) form of hitting on people. If you look around in trans spaces, you will start noticing (you probably already have) that these different kinds of allies/”allies” exist.

  2. S.R.

    Awesome article! Unfortunately in lots of community spaces gender theory and anti-oppression/language politics has an ulterior use for bouncing people who don’t have the cool identity markers or desirability cachet. And by ‘trans community’ space I totally mean spaces dominated by cis women and trans men. It can frustrate the shit out of me because I think, with any oppressive attitudes, there’s a huge difference in how you should handle things depending on the power the person with those attitudes actually holds over you. So when some straight trans women I know express homophobia or beauty fascism, they can’t really hurt me (a homosexual trans woman) with it, not nearly as much as cis dykes who are being transmisogynist. I get really pissed over the later and I don’t take the former so personally, though I do stand up for myself with both. I think some younger and mostly queer trans women are starting to become part of that ‘community’ because they came up through the internet and even trans male spaces, but that will still leave out the masses of straight/non-queer-identified trans women. I’m just glad that I’ve never featured that scene, it’s probably avoided me a lot of pain. Butch queens and femme queens forever!!

  3. CNE

    I’ve wondered about this too. I’m a trans guy, and I’m not that involved in the trans community anymore. I moved, and now all the trans people I know seem to be transwomen I want to date (blush). But I kept noticing everywhere I went how few transwomen there were, how little they got involved. Gay men, also, seem less likely to get involved in queer politics. And I have no idea what we’re doing or what dynamic we’re creating that makes these things true, but there’s obviously something wrong that needs to change. I wonder if part of it is the automatic brotherhood transmen create (usually), and I think that alienates others sometimes, even the cis lesbian and bi allies. Transmen tend to date each other and be each others’ best friends more than a lot of other demographics. In the bedroom, though, I really thought transwomen were more oversexualized than transmen, not that I think it’s good to fetishize anyone.

    • Morgan M. Page

      Trans women are oversexualized only by cis men, and I’m speaking specifically about the queer/trans community here. But yeah, we are definitely hypersexualized in the broader culture, where trans men for the most part remain invisible/erased.

      ~M

      • I’m still ragin that Craigslist doesn’t have w4t or t4w sections of it’s personals ads. Even though “t” being a monolithic category that can never cross over with “w” or “m” is a pain in the ass, so is the complete lack of network for what I think are a TON of trans and cis dykes who need to meet (and date).

      • J.A. B.

        I can assure you that this is not the case. I’ve seen examples of communities were trans women were oversexualized by cis women (I actually had a very dehumanizing, awful experience with that myself once). Some trans women in trans communities I know also oversexualize the hell out of each other (but I guess that’s with mutual consent, so it’s okay, question mark?), and I think it’s possible that if you look hard enough, you can find trans men who oversexualize trans women, though I haven’t found any myself, and I don’t think it’s very likely.

        • cen

          J.A.B why do you think it’s not very likely for trans men to oversexualize trans women?

    • Aimee

      Yeah, we are only hypersexualized by the straight cis male community. In the queer community, which happens to the be one that has the people I want to fuck, I run into cases where people think trans men are UNF UNF HOT GET IN MY BED AUGHGHGH and trans women are like WAIT YR TRANS THATS WEIRD EW.

      • 99% of the trans men I know were out lesbians in high school with lots of queer friends and most of the trans women I know are computer programming, Kate Bush listening, philosophy reading introverts (if this is you, um call me) who don’t come out until after college and don’t seem to have much of a network. I DON’T MEAN EVERYONE I mean a lot of people I know personally. I wonder if anyone else has observed anything similar?

        Being kind of trans masculine myself, I’ve noticed that as I “slip” from being read as femme straight girl, to tomboy, to “probably a dyke”, to “woooah butch” up until I might be read as male, I mostly just get… ignored. I’m not trying to say I’ve never experiences violence or awful things from my gender presentation, but I feel like I’ve been able to “hide out” in being a tomboy… Most cis guys look at me and don’t even have to think the words “eh, ugly girl” before they go about their day.

        There’s no male femininity that is like that, though, I think, and I wonder if it makes the social transition from male to female more terrifying and more visible in that way?

        • >> I wonder if anyone else has observed anything similar?

          Errrr…this doesn’t describe my experience with either trans guys or trans women at all.

          I think what you’re observing says more about the specific sorts of people in your personal social group than it does about what trans guys or trans women are like.

          • Fair enough. I’m not trying to generalize, hence asking.

          • Also, upon re-reading my comments, they sound way, way creepier now than they did in my head when I wrote them. I’m thinking out loud about individuals I know– who happen to form an odd pattern– and not at all meaning to speak for anyone else. I mean no harm and I’m sorry if any is caused.

            • Thank you for clarifying. I wish every misunderstanding on the internet went like this thread!

              To elaborate on my own experience: the trans women I’m close with came out anywhere from their late teens to their 40s, and are all over the map in terms of femme/butch/nerdy/hip/whatever. The genderqueer people I’m close with are also all over the map. As for us trans guys — here in the circles I run in, it’s just as likely as anything else that a guy spent his teens and twenties in dresses and now has a thick beard and glittery nail polish. Personally, I’m a big nerd, dating a cis gay guy.

        • Again I am not trying to speak for ANYONE but myself here. Sorry if my tone comes off as flippant, I didn’t mean it that way.

        • Kelsey, nice question! And since you’ve pretty much described me to a “t,” I’ll tell you the bad news. I’m probably old enough to be your mom. And, yes, there is no place to hide except right in front of whoever happens to be standing there. The need to transition eventually over-powers the fear – for the lucky ones. You are very cheerful. When people know you’re trans, you make them allies whether they like it or not. And I apologize to Morgan for stealing her soapbox.

        • I transitioned in boymode, so it went from slobby-nerd dude to prim boy, to “I dunno is he a twink in baggy clothes, or just a sitcom straight femmeboy?” to Wow, Ziggy Stardust is dressed down today, let’s ask its gender, to butch dyke, to dressed-down tweener.

          If we’d stop demanding people dress or pay thousands for a shrink before giving them HRT and just let their bodies do the transitioning, you’d find there’d be a lot less scared-as-shit girls out there.

          • This.

            • Thanks. Apparently though, subsidizing surgery for the most successful transitioners is more important to all the official rights organizations out there. One costs governments a few hundred grand, and is easy for the right to pounce on, and one is free and actually saves money since you don’t really need as much medicine involved when we move to an on-demand model.

              Ah Gay inc. You have taught our assimilationists well.

              • janedoe2

                I don’t get this – hormones and surgery do different things.

                • Yes, but almost every operative person, as well as almost every non-operative person, desperately wants hormones, but because we have one harried old septegenarian serving half the province, the wait is impressive.

                  I waited 5 months for spiro and 11 for estrogen. I’m one of the lucky ones they didn’t gatekeep out of existence or force to wait an incredibly long time. My friend [Name withheld] has been waiting two years and change. After fourteen months she got turned away because the endo to which she had been referred said that she needed to deal with her issues (read nervous tic of not making eye contact a lot and hiding behind her hair)

                  So yes, surgical access is important for a lot of people. But then, the medical model is creating a model where surgery for all is the ideal end goal, meanwhile perpetuating what is a crisis period for a lot of patients.

                  It would be nice if rights organizations cared a whit about getting everyone speedy access to the most widely used transition medicine and then worked from there. Instead we have reverse incrementalism: Imagine if HRC fought for Marriage first, then anti-discrimination laws after the concerns of their best assimilating membership… oh wait.

                  • Poison Girl

                    “said that she needed to deal with her issues (read nervous tic of not making eye contact a lot and hiding behind her hair)”

                    Well geez Dr. Doctor, I’m sure untreated gender dysphoria is helping that out a lot.

                    /snark

                    Unfuckingbelievable but I’ve seen it too many time before.

                  • J.A. B.

                    In response to this, I will let you know that the hormones I, and many other trans girls I know, use, have been ordered >!!!ILLEGALLY!!!< via the Internet. I consider this a deliberate act of civil disability, because we have no other choice.

    • As a trans man who used to seek to be part of that trans brotherhood thing you mentioned and now basically runs as far away as possible from it when I see it, I’ve always viewed the “automatic brotherhood” amongst trans men as more of a cliquey dude/bro thing than anything else. Certain types of trans men (those who pass well, those who are able to achieve the right balance of being kinda faggy but still passing, those who are basically thin, those who are white, those who went to college, those who have a certain “cool” factor to them) tend much more than others to be accepted into those brotherhoods.

      sometimes it feels like those communities (that call themselves “the trans community” but, like Morgan said, aren’t really) make the rules in a way that potentially trans women or trans folks of color or trans folks who are not college educated can, in theory, fit in, but the rules of who belongs are made by the people who dominate the community so they’re kind of slanted towards *not* including others.

      When I was organizing Camp Trans, the event shifted from being a trans male dominated space (there were, I think, 5 trans women there my first year), to being a space that was split about 50/50 in terms of attendance and power over the course of just a couple years (it still remained a fairly white space, though, and relatively inaccessible for folks with disabilities, so I’m not trying to say we, like, solved “the” problem.)

      I still think about this a lot and try to put my finger on how, exactly, we accomplished this, cause I hold that shift as a really important thing I have been involved in. And when I say “we,” I really mean that I would credit my accomplice, Lina Corvus, as the primary instigator of at least the beginning of this shift in culture.

      I think the fact that it is a space that people go to and only for a week makes it kind of an idealistic (in some ways) example of what a more inclusive (in some ways) trans community could look like, cause I think a lot of people go back to their communities at home and experience the same isolation Morgan was talking about (and, hell, the same isolation that I feel some fraction of being a trans man who has basically no patience for the cliquey trans male brotherhood stuff).

      So I don’t know what exactly we (or Lina) did to instigate that shift. I think one really huge part of it, though, was an effort to basically call out the cliqueiness as something that wasn’t us (not that that irradiated it); embrace the fact that some of the people we say we want in our communities but then actually push out are a little more nerdy, shy and less initially confident than it is “cool” to be and actually TALK about that shit; and I think there was some amount of massive organization of groups who were being forced out to do a small scale “takeover” in terms of the fact that it’s easier to claim membership in a group if there’s a whole chunk of people saying “we belong.”

      I don’t know, was anyone else there during that shift (2006-2008-ish) and have ideas as to what made it possible to change the space from all trans m-spectrum folks to a kind of comfortable mix of trans guys, trans girls, genderqueer folks, etc?

      I think the thing that is a huge issue to consider is that sometimes you gotta broaden your view of the culture and ideas that a group stands for if you actually want to broaden your membership in a real way—which is very uncomfortable when a group is really set in its ways about one narrow set of politics.

  4. I agree with you. I’m a gay trans guy in New York City, and even though we have a lot of awesome trans women in both activist and artistic circles, the trans men and masculine-spectrum people are better represented, and I think it’s a problem.

    I would be interested in hearing from the women in this forum your ideas on some specific things you would like from us trans men in terms of helping address this.

    I can’t personally speak to the sexual part, because I don’t sleep with women, but that sounds really frustrating.

    • I think step up/step back is a pretty important part of the solution. There’s little we can do that is more effective than making space for trans women to speak, do and succeed the way they want to. Then you can support the things they do.

      • All good advice, and in the spirit of step up/step back, I’d like to read some women’s thoughts on the subject. ;)

        • Wow, somebody gave a thumbs-down to privileging trans women’s stated opinions on what trans women want from their allies? That’s pretty creepy.

          • Maybe they hate smiley faces? Or maybe they hate listening.

          • penny

            Whoops, i just accidentally gave a thumbs down! make it a thumbs up! shit.

            Listen to our opinions, we totally have lots of them! (We just don’t say them cause there’s this big risk that we’ll get mis-gendered for saying it)

      • Abbie Cohen

        Am I . . . (sob) . . . a token . . . (sob) . . . tranny . . . (sob) . . . Tom? But seriously, maybe I can organize my thoughts on this phenomenon into a blog. “Tranny” is gendered female, isn’t. Nobody calls trans men trannies, do they?

        And Morgan, if you’re listening, could you explain the difference to me between “over-sexualized” and “hyper-sexualized”? I would be much obliged.

        • Aimee

          Only other trans men who like to appropriate the label tranny.

        • Morgan M. Page

          If there’s a difference, my grade 8 education hasn’t gifted me with the ability to see it. But please, pick apart the wordings of a high school drop out some more — it’ll make me feel more included, for sure.

          ~M

          • Aimee

            What? All I said is that some trans men like to appropriate the word ‘tranny’ for their own uses. Because it’s a fun word to them I guess.

            • Morgan M. Page

              My response was to Abbie.

              ~M

            • CNE

              True. I think I first started calling myself a tranny as a way to deal with other people calling me tranny, cos it’s a little hard to say “actually I’m not the right demographic for that insult.”

              • Aimee

                ‘Tranny’ is a term used to dehumanize male assigned at birth transfeminine people. Nobody ever looks at a masculine-presenting man and says ‘that dude looks like a tranny’, it’s usually feminine presenting women (or men who present VERY ambiguously) who are targetted by that insult. Because it’s insulting for a person to be a trans woman, or resemble one, whatever the hell we look like.

          • Abbie Cohen

            It was a sincere question, Morgan. Although both words keep popping up, I haven’t been able to figure out what they meant from the context in which they were used. I asked you because you are one of the savviest writers on PQ. I apologize for offending you.

            • Morgan M. Page

              Ok, fair enough.

              So what I mean is that, for trans women in the broader North American culture, almost all images of us remain sexualized: as porn performers, sex workers, and even as the butts of sexual jokes (like in The Hangover 2, where a cis man finds out he slept with a trans woman and is disgusted… because that’s so funny). We are viewed almost exclusively as naughty sexual objects.

              Whereas in queer communities, trans men as viewed as sexual objects by queer femmes, butches, other trans men, and trans women. It seems like everyone wants to fuck trans men all of the time. That’s being hypersexualized or oversexualized, in my understanding.

              ~M

              • Aimee

                Whereas trans women are viewed with disgust in these same queer communities.

              • I can’t believe people are still playing the “trans lady TRICKS innocent straight men” thing for a laugh. Not only does it make me want to flip the table but it’s so unoriginal. Our culture still has a deep, deep link between genitals and gender and therefore orientation to a gender… so if a dick was ever there, UR GAY, or if you’re looking for lez cred, you loose your five stars. Ugh.

          • Oh, snap! This is one of those phrases that means something valuable, but the two terms are used interchangeably except in rather rarified circles where one is 2nd person active and the other is first person or some other gradation that is completely beyond me. Here’s the point:

            Our communities are still in their infancy as communities go. It is counter productive as well as productive for any group to build itself. It takes experience. I understand that T-women were generally spurned by cis-gay woman in the past; that’s passing. There are elements in the cis-gay men community that spurn t-people, especially women. All of this is childish. Are the trans-men simply relishing their new thing? We have to continue to find ways to build community with and between all these identifiable groups. There is still strength in numbers. So we should support the T-men in what ever way we can, especially by supporting each other, even to the extent of calling someone when they are derailing the effort (we may see that they can tell us what they are trying to accomplish, after all). The effort may be, in part, not biting our tongues, but using them to the best of our abilities. After all, what do we want? I know I want prospective employers to look at my resume, not my trans-ness. I want them to be so familiar with trans-ness, femme, masculine, or 19 shades of queer that it is not an issue! I haven’t been active in the T-community, but I think I certainly should be. And that means showing up, whether I feel like I will be accepted or not. And being willing to speak up and to shut up and listen as best I can. (Step up/step back – what a nice phrase)! It’s very good to know what all the words mean. It’s very, very good to go out and use them in what ever way you think is the most effective, to build as much community as we can, between everyone we meet. Friends will be friends, just as we always were. I’ll just step back, now.
            BTW, I’m a tranny, you’re a tranny, he’s a tranny, she’s a tranny, wouldn’t you like to be a tranny, too?

          • Angie

            Drops outs are some of the, most intelligent people i’ve ever met!

            • I think the resentment of our contemporaries makes us learn harder after school ends.

    • What liberating knlweodge. Give me liberty or give me death.

    • lfkOus eavgdlwwwims

  5. I get that feeling here in Edmonton. Where TESA is the all-surgery-all-the-time channel and if you’re the kind of person Barney Frank likes to scare cis people with, then we want nothing to do with you.

  6. I’m not in Toronto, but you certainly seem to be a positive image to me! The pendulum swings, when do you duck and when do you stand up? I don’t know if that means anything, but in many localities and in N.A. at large, at least, the focus and motive has been with trans-women and T-men have been marginalized or ignored. I do not feel particularly threatened, but I haven’t been very active, either… It seems to me a bit too easy to examine the effects of testosterone on society, after all. Doesn’t it?
    On the one hand we have a disparate group of argumentative, self-centered Trans-Women and on the other, we have a focused group of active, team-forming Trans-men. How interesting.
    And, I have only a vague idea how hard you worked to get’em, but binding them? Teehee. Given the situation you’ve described, your article is exactly what is needed. You are obviously not ducking!

    We can continue to do what we can do: Strive against tyranny, rise above conflict.

    Jeanie Wallenstein
    Chicago

  7. My girlfriend feels very similarly to you (and I only speak for her because she doesn’t post here and she said I could). She went to Vassar and now lives with me in Boston and her experience was that, especially in dyke circles, trans men were often welcomed and earned someone, like, subversive cred for dating, and trans feminine people (because there were no out trans women that she knew at this time, including herself) were ignored as if they were faux “Nice Guys” insisting on being “lesbians trapped in men’s bodies” just to get the girl.

    My own queerness has been called into question both explicitly and implicitly because my girlfriend has ~certain body parts~, which is so weird and dumb. I can definitely relate to being seen as un-date-able by dykes because I’m bi/pan sexual and I’ve, like, touched penises. I even liked it. BAM out of the club.

    But dating and trans-ness always brings out the misogyny + transphobia + homophobia triad in a lot of folks. For example, I know a trans man who was dating a cis straight woman I know, and anyone who knew he was trans was like “psh she’s not STRAIGHT, that’s so lez cause there’s two vaginas”, but now that he’s dating a cis man you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would call -them- straight.

    Right now my GF bounces between being read as a gothy librarian girl or a hipster gay man. When her medical history seems especially “visible”, I feel like we get glares from dykes (“NOT REAL LEZ”) pity from gay men (“That fruit fly has GOT to know her BF is SO GAY…”) and regular old uncomfortable stares from everyone else (“Wtf….”)

    Ok rant done. In other words I like this article.

    • By “so weird and dumb” I mean people policin sexuality, not my GF’s body parts. I realized that read a bit odd.

    • I’m happy for you two, and I wish that a lot of cis dykes would at some point get educated that estrogen does things to a girl’s bits that make them very much unlike a man’s. Erectile tissue is not the original sin of the patriarchy, thank you very much, but then, I’m a weird one.

      • Abbie Cohen

        You are delightfully original, Valerie.

  8. Also as a note, how many of the aforementioned women who were blacklisted and written off for being crazy bitches would’ve, had they been the dudes in the community, been seen as forceful men?

    It does seem like Serano’s hypothesis on trans-misogyny could apply here.

    • Wendy

      It’s true. So often it feels like we (trans women) are supposed to sit down, shut up and not annoy our betters with our silly ideas and opinions and it pisses me off. If you speak out anyway then you are ‘taking up too much space’ or ‘just another angry tranny’.

      • My two favorite instances of trans dudes mansplaining was the president of TESA angrily declaiming a woman who, (stupidly, I’ll admit, but hey, it’s not my face) was early transition and showing up to work with a couple day’s facial hair growth with the words, “Women shave! At least women who have facial hair do.”

        Or one of the ‘radicals’ who said that he’d bought a porn vid with two trans women going at it, “And I cried because this is what these girls had to do to pay for their surgery…”

        Yeah, because every one of us, especially those of us who’ve been exposed to tryke porn, is so fucking desperate to have the magical anigav that makes us REELWOMYN…

        If you don’t want to watch pre-op porn, go certify that your performers are out as non-op women. It’s not like we shemales are so fucking hard to find.

        I keep forgetting how much misogyny is involved in radical feminism until I hear a man spouting it, among other reasons, because it used to be what got him laid.

        • Oh come on PQ, Jay blogs the truth when he talks about certain dudes and Craigslist’s w4w and you know it.

          • jay

            <3

  9. Danielle Macdonell

    There is a very wide gulf between the average sexual experiences of FtMs/MtFs. Most of the FtMs I’ve known (with exception of a long term partner) have transitioned (at least somewhat) within their community and it’s relatively rare for MtFs to transition within their community as I have. As hard as that is, it’s easier to adapt existing relationships then to create whole new place in a new community which is the situation for most MtFs. I’m also lucky I don’t have a hetro orientation, I couldn’t begin to imagine what my life would be like if I were attracted to cis males. The list of questions for prospective partners is frightenly long, starting with “could he kill me?”.
    The other major difference I see in our communities is that most FtMs have at least a glimmering of political consciousness, and there’s a very different situation within the MtF community. I didn’t just fall of the turnip truck yesterday (I’m 55, I came out as queer at 15), but I’m still dealing with deeply programmed internal misogyny from my rather messed up girlhood that still can come up and bite me on ass from time to time. I know that can make it difficult to work with me occasionally, but dammit I’m still on the team. And it does bite when some of the younger more privileged folks use their education to silence some of us less formally educated people who are still works in progress. Those things all combine to make it hard for us to deal with the cultural differences between MtFs and FtMs. Recognizing those differences, and dealing with them will move us all forward.

    • In your opinion, why is it so rare for MtFs to transition within their community? What are the reasons why this sort of support community doesn’t exist the way it could?

      • I’d hypothesize offhand/guess that a big part of it is how many of us, somewhere between 25-30% are gold-star (or pretty close) lesbians. Does a presumed straight cis boy who says, “I don’t think [statement about men/maleness] is true,” ever have much radical cachet? Does anyone make a bit of space for them? We decide that since they’re not presenting, we will presume for them.

        That was one of the first thoughts that occurred to me once I bit the bullet and tried to get HRT: The boy you bash might not be one.

        I dunno… if I win the lottery or something where I have more money than I could spend on things and instead spend on gratitude, I’ll set up a tryke-rescue group and find all the bottled-up girls I can, and give them a safe womyn’s space. Somewhere where all the abuse required to make a gay girl pretend she’s a straight boy can all be let go of. I will make it a point to ask the shy boy-looking person with the thousand yard stare standing in the corner to tell me about themselves… anyway, a girl can dream.

        • A lot of mental health professionals understand trans ness so little that they may tell a tryke “Um, are you gay?” in response to their gender/sexuality issues and then be like “Well, if you don’t want boys… I dunno man up and get a girlfriend” (which is a real thing someone said to my MtF partner when she was in high school).

          • Yeah, I got that too… also my last landlord, fairly friendly, just thought I needed to hit the gym.

      • Danielle Macdonell

        In my case I’ve been out in the kinky queer community for 30+ years. There is no place I could try a new start and have everyone forget who I used to be, and Vancouver was home, had the resources, and I was finally in subsidized housing.
        I met my first GF when I was 28, she was a third generation dyke, I wish I’d just dealt with all of it then and come out as trans, but I was scared and there were no role models. I maintained my “Fag” card by being in the men’s community a certain amount and always presenting as queer, but all my partners were or had been female bodied people. Though I’ve just been working on my own transition for the past two and half years, I was partnered to a very well known and very out trans guy for 15 years. I was at the first Gender Odyssey, and I’ve presented workshops at three or four of them (“Presenting as Male” was my most popular :o). When it it finally came to me, I’d known the coordinator of the Trans Health Program for over fifteen years when I had to say “Lukas I know you’re very busy but there’s something I need to to talk to you about.”, that wasn’t easy either. I’ll admit I’m far more well known amongst masculine of centre folks, but I don’t feel like I’m a stranger to the trans/queer/dyke communities. So yes, I definitely feel like I am transitioning within my own community, not unlike some trans guys who don’t stray far from the women’s community at first. I’m working in the women’s community, with a certain amount of resistance, but I’m also breaking trail for my sisters to come. I’m sure they’ll all be prettier than me, which will certainly fuck up the WBW types.

    • I really like how you tie formal education (and i think informal education ties in too) into this cause I think it’s a big thing that doesn’t get talked about enough.

      Not everyone has taken a million Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Studies (etc) classes, and not everyone knows about or has read all the right books. I trans bro dominated “trans communities” often tend to be really entrenched in very academic/theory based stuff learned in these classes and from these books, which can be really isolating to someone who hasn’t read the “right” books, hasn’t taken the “right” classes, and hasn’t been exposed to a certain set of ideas yet.

      I think that communities can really start to act as if, just because they deeply believe and stand by the transfeminist beliefs they learned in school or through already being accepted into a community, not everyone knows about that stuff and not knowing about that stuff does not automatically put someone on the opposite side of the fence.

      Sometimes people say really offensive things. Sometimes people say only mildly offensive things. Sometimes people say things that don’t offend someone personally but are just all around messy and problematic. It’s definitely important to tell folks (especially folks who a community has more in common with than not) when they say something offensive. At the same time, a lot of times they way that the “‘trans’ community” (and radical communities and queer communities and, well, not just trans folks) do this, by “calling out” someone can come off as really aggressive and mean. Like the goal is for someone to prove that they are more with it than someone else by all but labeling the other person (often publically) as THE problem.

      I think it’s really important to try to give people the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are good and, therefore, talk to them about stuff like that from a place of love. Especially when the details of things people are saying to offend are the kind of privileged things that a person would only use from taking the “right” classes, reading the “right” books, or already being established within the “right” communities. It can be really isolating and scary and uninviting to be on the outside of those communities and not know how to get the “right” stuff to get on the inside.

      • This times a million!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I agree with you Jack although when you have had to explain the same things to different people over and over and over and over and over until you’re so burned out on thinking about your own marginalization that you never want to talk about it ever again- no matter how intense it is to experience- it gets harder and harder to do that from a place of love. I think it’s a major reason so many trans women just disappear from communities; you *know* that if you go to that potluck, some dude high on the radicalness of his own gender is going to say something privileging masculinity/maleness that’ll make you wish you weren’t there, because it’s not worth the energy to break it down for him at the expense of the comfort of everybody else in the room- or you *know* that if you go to that show some queer performance poet whose stated investment in “trans issues” means she’s going to tell you about the boner she has for genderqueer trans men- a poem you have heard a thousand times although you have never heard a performance poet do a piece about having a boner for a trans woman- and again you’re just going to wish you’d just stayed home… It becomes easier to stay home in the first place.

        And I mean this is how women have always been silenced: we learn that it’s easier to be quiet, that it’s not worth the energy it takes to speak up. It’s pretty bizarre the way that trans men having roots in queer/women’s communities allows, like, the most blatant kinds of patriarchy to be reproduced in a space that ostensibly has a critique.

        • Totally Imi! I think there’s also a separation between community building stuff and more social spaces too.

          For instance, if I’m going to have a birthday party (that would be fun!) I’m going to invite the people who I want to be around; the people who don’t say stuff that pisses me off constantly; the people I don’t have to have those conversations with–i want my dang birthday party to feel safe and fun and easy.

          If I’m going to have an “event” though that claims to be a community thing that is about a larger community or has some “activist” purpose, I think that’s where the importance of being inclusive and lovingly talking about stuff that sometimes makes me want to either go hide or mouth off at someone becomes important to me cause that’s the kind of larger “community” I want to be part of.

          I think my “community,” though, does not always have to consist of only people I want to be friends with or only people I would invite to my birthday party

          • haha, it’s funny that you bring up birthday parties specifically. Did I tell you about my birthday party this year? A friend of a friend showed up to my little party and we talked for a bit until he actually literally was like “oh it’s cool to meet a trans woman with an analysis- the reason more trans women don’t become part of the community here is that most trans women are older, have mental health problems, and don’t understand about male privilege.” I was like, are you really tokenizing me and invisiblizing me at the same time, at my own birthday party in my own house? Are you really making me want to self-select out of my own HOUSE? Thank you for giving me the perfect anecdote to support this point forever, but also, you kinda wrecked my night, bro. #anecdotal #butstill

            • No, you didn’t tell me about that.

              But. Like. Fuck that.

              That’s one of the things that makes me most annoyed with trans(male-dominated)communities. This idea amongst douchey trans men that trans women are not cool, not smart, not interested in important politically charged things, are not feminists, whatever, and when someone *is* awesome, this is exceptional (as in the exception). As if trans women’s experiences are only valid if they come packaged in the same type of language that trans men prescribe to them.

              Ever think it’s funny, though, that those douchey trans guys have no problem appropriating trans women’s experiences into the way they talk about being trans?

              (There are never enough spoken word performances by white trans men on college campuses about how they are worried they are going to get murdered every time they walk into the men’s room at their college because trans “people” get murdered all the time. There aren’t usually any trans women (especially not trans women of color) at those events. Wonder why. As a white trans man who has spent a ton of times on college campuses, I have definitely felt awkward or mildly uncomfortable in bathrooms on occasion, but I’m not sitting in class thinking, “dang, I really gotta pee but maybe I should skip that, cause I might get murdered.”)

              • omfg two snaps up in z formation

              • Morgan M. Page

                Jack, everything you write is making me so happy that I can barely stand it. That last paragraph? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. The next white trans man who tries to claim the deaths of “trans people” (ignoring that they are about 90% female-identified sex workers of colour) is going to make me scream.

                ~M

                • everything you write makes me happy too, Morgan

          • Tess

            “I think my ‘community,’ though, does not always have to consist of only people I want to be friends with or only people I would invite to my birthday party”

            I think that this is a really important point and I would love to read your/someone’s smart essay on it. I like the birthday party analogy. Even in the short time that PQ’s been up in existence, comments have come up about cliquey-ness and exclusivity, like “Oh, PQ’s just the same old people from ____ site hanging out together”. I’ve totally been guilty of hatin’ in different queer and trans settings, and I think it’s important to keep the end goal in mind: What kind of community do I want to build and be part of? How are my words and actions deciding what a valid or non-fucked up experience is and thereby participating in the silencing others? (Which almost always coincides with access to higher education and reading the “right” books) How do we create room for people who are well-intentioned but ignorant to shit that we care a lot about?

            • Tess

              “How do we create room for people who are well-intentioned but ignorant to shit that we care a lot about?” — And I mean this in multiple directions and in reference to myself, too.

              • Personally, I think we need to begin to differentiate what is ‘educating’ and what is ‘shaming through use of theory.’

                • Tess

                  Absolutely.

                • Morgan M. Page

                  THIS COMMENT. SO MUCH OF THIS COMMENT. YES YES YES YES YES.

                  ~M

                • I agree and just sent the editors a post about this.

            • Maybe I will write a more well thought out essay about this when finals are done (less than a week!) I have been kind of intentionally out of queer scenes at all for a few years for a number of different reasons and am not kind of back to being in them with a new perspective so i have kind of been itching to write something.

        • … I have a performance poem about wanting to bone a trans woman. *blush* Maybe I should actually perform it somewhere…

        • Lynne

          “And I mean this is how women have always been silenced: we learn that it’s easier to be quiet, that it’s not worth the energy it takes to speak up. ”

          Word to this, and all of it, really. It’s pretty much the same in Chicago, which is why I’ve pulled away from what is called The Queer Community here.

          As someone who is read as a cis woman, it’s amazing to me that there’s this replication of the larger heteronormative, ciscentric society in these smaller communities, be they based on queer-ness, trans-ness, or anything else. Trans guys are uniformly listened to, as are folks who are read as androgynous or butch. If an apparently cis woman is feminine, they aren’t listened to or seen as quite as queer (with the exception from time to time if they embrace femme as a part of their identity), and if someone is read as a trans woman, they are ignored or vilified, depending on how vocal they are.

      • CNE

        This, precisely, is why I sometimes feel more comfortable and supported among people who are less involved in the ‘queer community’ (whatever that is): people who are accepting and are willing to let you have your story without saying that’s not what it should be. It’s so hard as a baby transperson to realize that no word you use is inoffensive, because there is someone, somewhere, who will take offense to every single term out there. I’m in academia and I STILL get this, so I make sure to remember that having the right words is a matter of educational privilege and experience.

      • A genuinely curious 16 year old cisgirl asked me the other day, “So, if a man dates a trans woman and he, you know, KNOWS…. is he gay?”

        It took all of my energy to keep face and also try to address the multiple layers of problems even within the question itself. But I also know that if I just yell at people it won’t get anywhere.

      • jay

        It’s something we need to step up and do when trans women can’t or won’t or aren’t even in the community to do so. I think this piece and the truth that informs it is plenty to have created a generation of really pissed off trans women–and we can’t expect them to bite back their anger because they are *right* to be angry. It’s an infuriating situation. I hear you on call outs but cautioning people to be nice over deeply offensive shit can also be a tool of further marginalization. As much as we look at restorative love we must acknowledge righteous anger.

        • I don’t think you need to sugarcoat anything to be respectful. i really don’t think “calling people out” the way a lot of people do it accomplishes anything other than embarrass people and drive a greater wedge between people. I think you can have the same conversation with someone one-on-one, or if it needs to be had publicly, it can be approached from a place of respect–it’s not about trying to make it seem like the offensive thing said wasn’t that bad or wasn’t a big deal, it’s just about educating instead of alienating

          sometimes, though, someone will totally say something that’s so bad that the needs of the people it hurt are more important than anything and drastic stuff needs to be done though, for sure

          • jay

            I guess I am just always on the side of the needs of people who have been hurt. I am kinda tired of cis comfort always privileged over what their words can do. There’s only so much educating people can be expected to do–especially the most marginalized people. If we have “allies” and we have many who have claimed that title–they can step up to the plate more. I also think advocacy can and should be done regardless of the advocate’s trans or cis status.

            In regards to this specific topic, I can’t see patient educating really working. Once people have the power to marginalize, it’s going to take more than nice talk to get them to share.

            • I’m not talking about being patient with cis people who say fucked up stuff. fuck that, i don’t really care about making cis folks feel welcome or included in trans spaces. if you wanna be an ally, do the work yourself.

              I’m talking about being patient with trans folks who say fucked up stuff. not douchey trans folks (er, usually trans men) with a lot of privilige and power saying fucked up stuff to be douches, but trans folks saying genuinely well-intentioned stuff that is fucked up but comes from a place of lacking an understanding of stuff that some of us learned from taking the right classes or reading the right books or being in the right communities.

              • Snarkysmachine

                “I’m not talking about being patient with cis people who say fucked up stuff. fuck that, i don’t really care about making cis folks feel welcome or included in trans spaces. if you wanna be an ally, do the work yourself.”

                <3

        • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

          Jay, it feels like a no-win.

          A generation — maybe more — of us are browbeaten, tired, and broken by being told that we should speak up. (I sometimes think we should be called the “missing milk carton generation,” because a lot of people have had to vanish into a non-trans world). If or when we have said something, we’ve been reminded that we really should shut up because we just come across as institutional oppressors or something equally as absurd. Just as we were trying to find a cohesive voice following a generation of post-Raymondism (and just finishing our digestion of Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back”), a new wave of resistance came in the form of (rightly) angry trans guys who had been pushed below the margins of agency by an antecedent generation of community-self-policing trans women.

          We know this because a lot of us were being policed, too. We spoke to the idea of informed consent as a new model for trans care, and we were excoriated for it. Some of us Gen X and Y trans women found ourselves all Malcolm-in-the-middle: we had positively no quarrel with trans guys, but we did have a quarrel with these previous trans women who had tried to shape and bend us to their political and institutional whims. We could not safely say anything about this to one another louder than sotto voce without being attacked for it. They had long figured out the institutional ropes to serve their ends and, by then, the internet ropes to control discourses of authority.

          Then, when trans guys — or more accurately, non-binary transmaculine spectrum genderqueer people born post-1980ish — started organizing and mobilizing in academic circles and around a term of reference that *all* trans women (tokens excepted) were oppressive or tainted by their masculine upbringing. It left us voiceless, freaked out, hurt, and very alone. Why us? Why did this juicy morsel of second-wave separatism get metabolised into a new masculinity of misogyny, informed by transmisogynistic tenets? (Is there even such a concept as transmisandry? I don’t think so.)

          For me, it has only been in these last 9 months that I’ve discovered that there *are* a smattering of trans men who now grasp what happened, who get just how wrong things went, and who are reaching out to us not out of pity, but out of genuine regard for our well-being (and, by extension, the well-being of all trans people). They want to know how we feel about, well, a lot of things. This is good, but do we get to start discourse anywhere without being torn down, without being invited by trans men to step up and speak, or without having transmasculine spectrum folks in universities inviting the same half-dozen token trans women to speak on our behalf (before a doe-eyed auditorium)?

          This is the root of my anger. It’s not something “the community” will ever hear me say verbally (that is, to out myself) because, quite frankly, this has cumulatively been traumatic and demoralizing. Thinking about the prospect of confronting it head-on now is fatiguing and makes me want to curl up and cry and hate myself for being this way — a dirty, evil trans woman.

          Logically, I know better, but the primal feelings always come back to this. I don’t even know how to begin healing from this intra-community damage.

          This all reminds me of that Peter Gabriel video, “Digging in the Dirt”: the mushrooms cry for “HELP”. I’d like to try to find the place where we got hurt.

          • i think that when trans men are planning the events and choosing to invite trans women to speak, it’s dumb. why weren’t there any trans women on the planning committee to begin with? probably because the trans guys don’t really “get” it and only want trans women there so no one can call them out for not being inclusive, but they don’t really care at all about what trans women have to say.

            also, i have heard the term transmisandry. mostly used in a snarky way by trans folks to describe their own attitudes towards trans men in general–which i think kinda rules.

            • Morgan M. Page

              THIS! Oh man. So often the inclusion of trans women is an afterthought to just make sure no one calls them out for excluding trans women. Geez.

              ~M

            • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

              So when will we see a speaking event or workshop on trans topics at, say, a university campus in which the committee putting it together are principally (or at least even par) trans women who also go to school at that or at nearby campuses? Do we see this ever happening in this decade? What has to be in place (or removed) for this to be more than just a proposition?

              To pan back a little, cis awareness is also suffering at this neglect of knowledge. At my university (guess which), there is a bike shop for students to use to work on their bikes. This isn’t a place dedicated solely to bicycle education. They run these workshops on “anti-oppression”, which (if you’ve ever been to one like this) feels like the suburban middle-class kid’s burden. They segregate some nights for “women & trans only”. This is great and all, provided you want to out yourself. Not all people do or feel the need to. This is especially the case for trans men who are read as cis men — only to be screamed at and told to leave (by cis women, no less). It is this same feeling I get when I step into a space like this, except with a corollary: that I should feel the need to out myself to garner (I dunno) cis-sympathy for being such a trooper or something. Uh, no. Fuck that.

              So I guess the point here is that the knowledge gap in our houses of knowledge, as it relates to trans women and trans people generally, is really lacking. How do we confront this?

          • Oh goddess, the pile-ons you still get from the Stockholm Syndrome Success Stories when you argue for informed consent…

            Great comment.

            • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

              Heh. There are two distinctions in this world over my dead body will reanimate to fight kicking and screaming to avoid: visiting Florida and ending up on Lynn Conway’s “TS Women Success Stories” pages. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck that.

          • jay

            I want to acknowledge that I read your comment, and while I am not a trans woman, I feel I definitely understand where the pain comes from, and whose fault it was. I hope the rifts are healable.
            I know my apology does basically nothing, but I am sorry.

            • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

              Then look forward to a better horizon.

              It starts at the individual level. As a trans man, you do have some agency on changing course towards that better horizon. As a trans woman, I can do what I can to make things better (having dialogue, for instance), but to predict — based on past experiences — on how effective this might be suggests that I have relatively little sway in the long run. When that hindsight informs me it how was the organizing of trans events which excluded trans women’s voices writ large, then I know I am dependent on my trans men cohorts to re-enable us the permission to speak again within trans space without shunning or instant retribution.

  10. Jane Doe

    Hi – I just stumbled upon this article, and it moved me a great deal. I’m a cis-bisexual female, so I can’t offer you the solace of shared identity. But I can tell you: you have to keep writing, and keep speaking your mind. You are touching on so many vital issues that in many ways represent the core of what it is to be human — and you may not realize how universal your voice is. Nor may you realize who else you are helping.

  11. Jane_doe2

    Hi Morgan – thanks for your peice .

    I would like to point out that I find it dispiriting to place the blame for exclusion on the trans women being excluded. In general , cliquishness is exactly how not build a mass movement. People can and will have personal friends, but for activism we should participate in organizations that bring some formality to the process. As a great example of that I would point to the DC trans coalition.

    Im a straight white trans woman with passing privlige who has been involved in grass roots trans focused activism for about 5 years. Trans women are not involved in “activism” as much , because the self organization of trans women in major cities has been about survival first. Proud awesome women made sure to try to get their sisters roofs over their heads and condoms in their purses. This sort of organizing – with it’s grants , boards, etc, is very different then the agitational activism which I suspect it is you are speaking to Morgan.

    • Jane_doe2

      Also, I participate in the agitational activism , and yes it can feel pretty othering. Gender subversion is celebrated, with a subtle undercurrent of critiquing the more binary gendered among us, and the “correct thought” can become a bit much – though I’m very familiar with it and sadly prob try and be “righteous” about it myself too.

      Also this is a minor pet peeve: I am not queer you well meaning dyke and trans guys! I sleep with men , and I am a woman, that is known as being straight.

      • Poison Girl

        As someone who is pretty binary gendered, I have experienced this also in radical politics and I’ve sometimes felt it easier to just drop out of some efforts rather than to get the blank stares when I try to talk about it or the “this isn’t an issue/you’re being disruptive” when I refuse to put up with it.

    • Morgan M. Page

      Actually, I’m speaking about both. My professional career is quite literally me helping trans women get roofs over their heads and condoms in their purses.

      ~M

      • janedoe2

        That’s awesome, but do you see the same trans-women / trans-men dynamics in the service provision communitty?

        The agitional / confrontational activism part (which i love!) seems to be the part where I see trans-misogyny the most.

        • Morgan M. Page

          Yep. It’s pretty much across the board. In Toronto, Trans women are more active in the agitational activist circles (but no one listens to them, and they are often actively excluded), whereas in service provision there are literally three of us vs. 20 trans men. No one hires trans women in the service provision world here because trans men candidates are usually better educated, with tons of experience in queer community organizing. I’ve been part of the hiring process myself, multiple times, and have had to face the fact that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t force people to hire an under-qualified trans woman over an overqualified transmasculine person.

          Furthermore, fewer trans women seem to actually apply for jobs in service provision here. When we hire for positions, there’s almost a 5:1 ratio of trans men to trans women applying. The reasons for that are complex and there are no easy solutions to it.

          ~M

          • janedoe2

            Interesting – in the two communities I’ve had the most exposure to (Washington DC and San Francisco) there have been multitudes of trans women specific service provider orgs, run by trans women (like Trans Health Empowerment or T.H.E.).

          • Sable

            I know this post was made almost two years ago. I hope it’s still okay to still comment.

            Is there any effort at mentoring of these under-qualified trans women so they will be in a better position to apply to these or similar jobs in the future? And is there any sort of effort is being made to reach out find compensated positions for these individuals based on the their existing skill sets?

  12. BSINGER

    I feel like I fell asleep and woke up decades in the future into an entirely new political landscape. I have no idea how in the matter of 10-15 years, or so, that the operations of sexism have once again managed to divide those of us who would make the best allies—by that, I mean, the range of trans-identified and gender non-conforming people and partners, as well as everyone else who populates trans social worlds.

    So, let me be more specific: there was a time when the guys (trans masculine people and female born male-identified folks) were the ones who were treated like we didn’t have a brain in our head or any capacity for leadership. I’d say that prior to the first North American FTM Conference in San Francisco in 1995, well, there was barely any presence of trans guys trans-masculine people at any trans-specific events in the U.S. As well, we were never in leadership positions in whatever organizations and community networks out there. And our voices were routinely ignored when we did try to speak up. We were essentially treated as second-class citizens of an emerging movement. And those of us who came out of feminist worlds did not like this situation very much since it felt very, very familiar.

    Where I’m going is to suggest that what’s lost in the present day discussion of the marginalization of trans women is a very long and complicated history. This history includes the phenomenon of inverse sexism (what I used to call the dynamic of trans guys being marginalized in trans spaces, when sexism didn’t seem exactly the right word for the situation). I’m not saying that knowing this history will change the present; however, what concerns me is the total erasure of the struggles that we’ve all faced, particularly those of us who have been around long enough to be excluded by this so-called “umbrella” community.

    As a matter of history, Camp Trans was founded by some very brave trans women, most of whom identified as post-operative transsexual women and/or simply women (ala the New Woman Conference post-op criteria). In the beginning, no t-guys of any type were involved. A couple years after founding, Les Feinberg and James Green joined the protest that moved onto festival land…but I digress. And to further digress: in the 1980s when I attended a couple festivals—on the inside—there were FTMs (I use “FTM” for historical specificity because nobody seemed to mind being reduced to an acronym back then) on the land. They were holding support group meetings on the inside… so the festival has always upheld an essentialist policy based on shared genital morphology instead of shared gender identity. A parallel is the west coast S/M group led by Patrick Califia (prior to his transition) called PowerSurge that had a “dick in the drawer” rule—yet another manifestation of genital-centric policies. So included in the baiting of trans women was not only accusations of “male energy” being brought into “womyn’s” spaces, but also the specter of the sure-to-trigger-trauma sight of a penis in non-trans women’s spaces. This was an issue discussed incessantly among festival participants, and was based on a confrontation when a non-operative trans woman attempted to bathe herself in the Michigyn communal shower.

    I should also point out that the trans women who were in positions of power in the pre-2000s era were mostly white and middle-class individuals who didn’t seem to have a developed sense of radical political awareness. In particular, they did not have a political consciousness shared by some of us who transitioned from feminist communities as formerly female-bodied people. At the same time, in addition to the Canadian pioneers mentioned (i.e., Namste and Soleil-Ross) there were the women behind the magazine TransSisters who were attempting to ignite a political consciousness among their trans sisters. Their political critique, however, was not formed in contrasts to FTM experience since we were facing our own struggles in women’s communities. These days, what I find compelling about some younger trans women and transfeminine people is that they speak a politics based on an articulated awareness of how power and gender operate against us all. What excites me is the possibility of joining our political analyses and mending some of these past rifts.

    But what I find concerning is that indiscriminately all trans guys are being figured as those who most benefit from some intense privilege of masculinity within the very spaces that only a decade earlier we were violently expelled from. I have my own experience in dyke/queer women’s groups where the minute one of us uttered the intention to transition, before any physical changes, we were automatically commanded to leave the only community we had known. Gayle Rubin writes about this in her article “Of Catamites and Kings,” which is an analysis on how to ethically navigate women-only spaces when those of us who helped build those organizations begin to transition. For me, what is lacking in this discussion is a generational dialogue. The trans guys who seem to be clueless about their own history—and how they became the new sexy—are in their 20s-30s. The rest of us not only remember a very different time, but I suspect are too old to be the sexual objects we’re being told that we are. I don’t see this as much different than the ageist, youth obsessed tendencies of queer worlds in general. Newly sexualized trans worlds, it seems, are no different.

    Another nuance that has yet to be addressed is that while the idea that trans guys are the new sexy (sex toys?) in women’s/queer worlds, well, not all of us are seeking non-trans female partners. We simply don’t hang out in those worlds (which I guess does not make the critique less valid since others do). But I think a lot of transmasculine desirability is based on a genital-essentialism since few of us want or can afford genital surgery. So, for some, we’re just an extension of the category woman and not really seen specifically as who we are (and, of course, who we are varies widely). Furthermore, this idea that trans guys are the new hot commodity in women’s, trans and queer spaces misses the fact that there are still few trans men and trans-masculine people of color in any of these social spaces. At the first FTM conference in 1995, I could count the guys of color on one hand; years later, I still cannot count that many more. Beyond numbers, I also think that the dynamics playing out in queer/trans people-of-color social worlds might be qualitatively different than the one we’re talking about here—dynamics mostly happening amongst white folks of all genders.

    I don’t have a really clever way to end this way-too-long post and admit to being intimidated to write often due to the excessive cleverness of many PC writers. That’s a compliment to y’all!

    • janedoe2

      “I should also point out that the trans women who were in positions of power in the pre-2000s era were mostly white and middle-class individuals who didn’t seem to have a developed sense of radical political awareness”

      “These days, what I find compelling about some younger trans women and transfeminine people is that they speak a politics based on an articulated awareness of how power and gender operate against us all.”

      I find this weirdly judgey and paternalistic.

      • Yeah, it goes back to, in 2001, before I transitioned, to my fellow leftists, I was obviously some boy who didn’t ‘get’ sexism because I wasn’t about to center cis women’s experiences… now apparently that’s radical because, um… oh yeah, I take estrogen and I learned how to sprinkle the word privilege into the occasional sentence.

      • BSINGER

        I understand why this sounded “judgey” and “paternalistic.”

        I focused on trans women becuase that was who the original post was about. I am also talking about certain individuals who held positions of power early on–so I’m not talking about everyone. Mainly, I was just trying to express relief that there are now people in trans worlds with whom I can share a similar politics. I probably should have added that my bro-others of yesteryear were no better in terms of their politics, since so often they felt complelled to use mysogyny as a lever to prop up their male idenities.

        Maybe I should have simply said that I feel a sense of relief talking to younger trans people who have a political critique that I found missing in the trans-specific social worlds of 10-15 years ago. Obviously, my perspective is limited to the extent that I was able to travel during a time before virtual social networking enabled the kinds of dialogues we are having here.

    • Morgan M. Page

      Thanks for bringing in an historical perspective. I was aware of some of this stuff, but not all of it, so it’s very informative. I hope that my article didn’t come across as demonizing trans men. I focused specifically on current events because this is really about my own experience of exclusion and tokenized inclusion in this particular time and place.

      History is really important for me, so thank you so much for sharing all of this stuff. It’s given me a lot to think about! :)

      ~M

      • BSINGER

        Thanks. I think it’s a baby and bathwater thing. Some of the rightful critiques of sexism in trans/queer and other worlds are unfortunately, maybe unwittingly, lumping all trans men together. For me this erases a history of struggle in women’s spaces that enables me to understand just a tiny bit what trans women might be going through. As well, and by extension, it’s a divide and dilute situation whereby instead of being each other’s allies we are pitted as oppositional or antagonists. I regret this because for me it would be really satisfying to imagine a trans politics that includes us all. Otherwise, it looks like we’re heading for a lesbians versus gay men sort of divide. Given trans folks have such a different relaitonship to gender than non-trans gays and lesbians, well, that would just be really unproductive to start seeing each other as the problem. (As I write this, I realize how Pollyannaish it’s sounding–agh… I don’t mean to erase the diffculties of what I’m proposing… or to bury real differences under a naive “Can’t well all just work together?” logic.)

        • Tess

          It makes me really happy to see you writing on here, B.

          • BSINGER

            Hi Tess!
            I guess you know me :)?
            Not really hiding anything with “BSINGER” as my
            sign-in name.

            • Tess

              Haha – yeah, not really. Still, didn’t wanna blow any potential anonymity and share your first name ;) Anyways, I always appreciate your historical contextualization and am glad you’re here. See you around!

    • Thank you so much for bringing up the point about generations. It’s something I’ve been fascinated by (as, I should note, a young white trans man with clear class/educational privilege in the early stages of “medical” transition) because I feel like it’s totally lost on young trans men, especially those in the same position as me.

      What I fear most is the chance to build more unified trans/gender-variant political coalitions will be lost in the drive to prioritize certain kinds of unity over others (to conquer by dividing).

    • jay

      It’s been pretty widely disseminated that the “trans woman in the shower” incident was actually a trans man who had completed surgery (Tony Barreto-Neto) who decided (for whatever reason, and if you look at http://radicalmasculinity.blogspot.com/2008/09/camp-trans-report.html he claims it was because he needed one) to take a nude shower at fest. My opinion has always been that women who witnessed him knew he wasn’t a trans woman, but it worked much better as propaganda to claim he was. just to clear that part up.

      • BSINGER

        Really? I had not even heard of Tony attending Michigyn and then being linked to the incident I was trying to refer to- without using a proper date. I am not sure the exact year of the festival I was referring to, but it was very early on (perhaps before Camp Trans was actually called Camp Trans). I see how blaming this sighting on a supposed trans woman would work better as a propaganda tool, though. I do think it might have also served the no-penis (I write “penis” as the word used/feared by the haters… not because I think all trans people refer to their genitals as such) policy to target a trans guy with a phalloplasty. I dunnno. I am not sure we are talking about the same historical moment here. But I will take a look at the link you posted and see if this might be the same year.

        • BSINGER

          To add: I’m surprised I had not heard of this because Tony was part of different groups I was involved with, starting around 1995 and onward. So, I would think that people in those groups might have said “Hey, remember that thing that happened at the festival involving Tony?” Just saying, I never heard such gossip and wonder why when it seems like this was made into such a big deal. (Not doubting you Jay… just not sure why when so much else was talked about–lots of messed up stuff in 1990s–that I never heard this story too. Maybe I slept through that meeting?)

        • jay

          I’m not a fest historian, but I believe the T B-N incident happened in at the latest the 2000 fest, if not in the 90s. I certainly don’t know when he completed surgery so I can’t work backwards from that. I guess I can’t provide proof, but I have a strong hunch that all the “penises in the showers” rumors and accusations are pretty likely to have stemmed from one selfish trans man who couldn’t just wait to shower. According to that link he claimed to have gone into fest that year to work from the inside or whatever on their policy of trans women’s exclusion, but in less recent years he stated he felt he had enough history in the community to not self-exclude as a man from a women’s event. Who knows, right? that’s about the breadth of my knowledge.

          • I never really buy that argument (his, not yours) because in heteronormative cis spaces I don’t think it gets used with the same relish. I know at times what it’s like to be lumped in with the boys, but being one? I’m rather clueless on that matter. I don’t have history as a boy, I have history of believing I was a boy that didn’t really fit. Like lots of trans women have… I have a history of buying the lie for a while.

  13. You don’t have to identify with any group. I don’t! You just have to be yourself like I did and then you will be happy. I think that is the problem lots of times with “community” they make you feel like if you don’t follow the rules then you can’t be a part of.
    Do you think all transman identify with “The man with a pussy” no way! They have sent me hate mail from day one. Do you think I care. No way! I live my life!
    Hope you can start living for yourself you will see how much happier you will be!
    WOOF!
    Buck Angel®
    Pioneering Filmmaker, Educator, and Advocate

    http://buckangel.com/
    http://www.facebook.com/buckangel
    http://twitter.com/BuckAngel
    http://linkedin.com/in/buckangel
    http://buckangelentertainment.com/

    • Abbie Cohen

      I agree with Buck. Reading all of these different kinds of responses has been very educational, but I can’t help but feel that the trans world may be more judgmental towards its own than the cis world is in some ways. It’s like Protestants and Catholics at each other’s throats.

      • Oh, we’re just a little more judgmental towards each other. (And by “a little,” I mean “a whole lot.”)

    • But to be sure, Buck, they invite you to Exposurefest, they call Bailey Jay… well… they pretty much ignore her experiences. Never mind that she’s independent, or that she’s produced some wonderfully gonzo stuff. There’s far less room in queer spaces for “the woman with a penis.”

    • Morgan M. Page

      Thanks for your response, Buck. I absolutely agree that we all need to just be ourselves. It just sucks when being yourself means having people shun, ignore, devalue, and asexualize you.

      ~M

      ps — You rock and I love your work!! :)

    • Inspirational! Like Oprah, this one.

    • Tess

      “You just have to be yourself like I did and then you will be happy.”

      In a really basic, grand-scheme-of-things way, I agree with you, Buck, but isolation really, really sucks. I’m sure you know. I would just like to believe that our communities can grow and change and fewer people had to hack it on their own. I’d like to think more about how to make that happen.

  14. J

    Great article.

    I’m a trans woman lucky enough to graduate college, and a good one at that. The trans activists group on campus was, no exaggeration, 100 percent trans male. Not even a token trans woman. Trying to participate in a feminism class or activism was just a brick wall. The few talks we received on trans issues were from very well intentioned cis women and trans men.

    There just wasn’t any place for me. I couldn’t pass well enough, challenge the binary enough, be quiet enough, and I wasn’t supposed to bring up the intersection of class privilege (as we were at a 50k/year university). So I just stopped going. Now I’m applying to jobs to benefit the LGBT community. The offers I’ve gotten are from when I’ve chosen not to disclose my status as a trans woman. It makes me feel like a fraud and a liar. Not to sound too angry about it, but the trans community has taught me I’m not welcome, not much else. That my chances of being listened to are a heck of a lot better as a cis female than a trans woman. That I won’t have to hear about what I could do to pass better, or about what other obligations I have to the community. I think a lot of us are just burned out.

    • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

      My experiences have been a lot like this. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • Wow have I ever noticed that often, seemingly nobody who wants to talk about privilege wants to talk about class privilege.

  15. BlaydenWaydonLeydon

    Hi. First-time commenter on PQ.

    I live in Toronto. I am a trans woman. I transitioned starting at 18, but not at The Clarke. That was in the 90s. I arrived to university late after working all sorts of jobs (and no jobs, too). I don’t have many trans contacts in this city, and I don’t really see this changing. It’s not yet a safe place to come out as a trans woman in the “trans community”, such as it is. So I live in cis social space as a trade-off: I get treated as cis, but I lose any hope with making a meaningful connection with genuinely wise, genuinely smart, genuinely healed people with trans experiences. It is a little frustrating to compromise like this, ’cause it would be nice to not have to edit myself on the fly once in a while.

    I have memory of the trans sex worker murders in ’96 and how the cis gay community didn’t really care (except that they worried the shooter would start targeting gay men). Candlelight vigils weren’t even held in the usual places (like the 519, Cawthra, The Steps, Zelda’s, Alternative Grounds, etc.), but way off at Allan Gardens at the queer neighbourhood’s poorest edge. 1996 preceded the Mirha-Viviane dynamic duo days but just a couple of years after Grayce Baxter was murdered and dismembered in ’92. I walked in the first Toronto dyke march, and two 50sth separatists in their truck up from Texas basically told me to my face that “my kind weren’t welcome” (“wait, aren’t you guys the visitors here?” I wanted to ask). So I never went back until fairly recently. I don’t go to the trans marches. I don’t feel safe being out on that level. I wouldn’t be taken seriously, either because I’m a dumb and female or a just a lifetime male oppressor. Or both. The last time I tried to say something around a trans space, a bunch of “bois” tag-teamed me and told me that my experiences were not valid.

    Where before the resistance I felt was its worst with trans women who preceded me and were wrung through The Clarke until they were mentally crushed into a shadow of their former selves or experienced a long socialization as masculine adults, I find the resistance today happens at the exclusion of trans women by trans men with prior ties to the dyke community. The inclusion of trans men in a women’s space such as Pleasure Palace comes to mind. I’m sorry, but dudes, you can’t have it both ways to the exclusion of trans women (or frowning at them): if you identify as male and have been on T, then you no longer have a place in the women’s community except as an ally — if you so choose. When you appear in women-only spaces (or female-only spaces, cis or trans), you not only make it awkward for all women who don’t want to see a hairy dude (even if, yes, he’s trans), but you also undermine the legitimacy of every trans woman in that space. How? If you’re a guy now and still using your “female card” to get into select spaces, this delivers the inverse message about trans women still holding a “male card” somewhere. And with social perceiptions of male, as you’ve learnt, it comes with a bit of social access. Man up and start trans men’s communities.

    I’m gonna sit this one out for a few more years. Or maybe forever. I’m sorry. I don’t feel safe being out at trans in Toronto. There’s still some toxicity left from the old days.

    >Because, in this city (as elsewhere, I’m told), trans women are to be
    >shunned and trans men are to be celebrated. Trans women are
    >unfuckable to cis dykes and trans men, and trans men are
    >hypersexualized by everyone except cis gay men (though, with the rise of
    >Buck Angel and other trans masculine porn performers, that’s slowly
    >began to shift).

    I agree with this. It does wonders to self-esteem.

    • Morgan M. Page

      I’m so sorry that your experience has been so isolating. It really sucks when communities let us down like this.

      ~M

      • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

        I gather the impression that there are a lot of us out there who find ourselves in this awkward placement of conditional acceptance in the cis world and awkward placement of categorical rejection in the trans world.

        Something I thought about after posting: of those friends of mine today who are also trans, it’s a pretty even split between trans men and trans women, though I am meeting more trans men nowadays. All of them come without the social or academic baggage I last confronted with bois in cis space (this was at a university talk). Or more accurately, they recognize their placement now that they are transitioned and treated as men, but aren’t willing to accept the socializing of misogyny or trans-misogyny. Of the trans women with whom I have friendships, they are all my age or younger. I think this has everything to do with the keen awareness of feminist theory, feminist application, and how misogyny affects us (and in some way, all trans people).

        In Toronto, I have one one friend who’s a trans man (like me, he is treated as a cis person in cis space) and one acquaintance who is a trans woman. She is out, because she is in a place where this does not work against her, but she also respects that I am not in that place and tacitly honours that discretion. I want to believe there are good people out there in Toronto the Good, but I am not in a place where I can simply “seek” them out. It’s disheartening. Anyway, I’ve said too much. Cheers.

        • One quick point: That male socialization is not intriniscally linked with testosterone, rather, men tend to pick up messages meant for them, even if they’re not read as men, and vice versa.

          • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

            I know that. Gender is social, not hormonal.

            • It’s kinda neither.

              • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                Expliquer, S.V.P.?

                • Well gender is innate, socialization, which does tend to influence performance greatly, is external. The argument of socialization is frequently used as an orginal sin argument by the HAFTA*’s against why trans women can never enter womens’ space.

                  *Hates and Accepts Femininity Thence Assigned

                  • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                    I grasp what you’re saying and understand where that’s coming from, but I sort of observe and experience this a little differently than that which you’ve explained.

                    There’s a couple of people on Reddit who’ve been proposing that there are four variables (not three) which describes — not prescribes — the person. I think it’s making a bit of sense.

                    http://imgur.com/knNvV

                  • Abbie Cohen

                    I am skeptical about the claim gender is innate. Just because gender identity may be socially constructed doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel real nor does it mean gender identity will always be produced in predictable patterns. The Transgender individual is like the character Neo in the Matrix, an inevitable anomaly produced by the system, but no less “natural” than any other character that functions within the boundaries of the Gender Matrix.

                    • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                      What if our world’s “Matrix” was gender itself?

                    • Abbie Cohen

                      Exactly, B, outside the Gender Matrix, we are just bodies that eat, sleep, poop, and generate a small electrical field that powers the social matrix in which our lives have meaning.

                    • It seems like then, you’re imagining that in a world where gender no longer matters societally, it won’t matter personally.

                      I really don’t know about that, as it will delegitimate an awful lot of us binary-identified folks. I mean, gender isn’t a binary, it’s sort of a two party system, with it’s Fingerlickans and Tastycrats and all the other parties both on the peripherys and inbetween and being refusniks. Which is all well and good, I like a healthy democratic system. I don’t however, like the implication that because I’m not joining a third-party or registering as an independent that my politics are thus not my own.

                      [/metaphor]

                    • Abbie Cohen

                      I am saying I don’t think one can can be a gendered (or raced) person outside of a social context anymore than one can be a player in our society without a recognizable gender (or race). There s a joke about the Jewish Robinson Crusoe. When his rescuers ask him why he built two synagogues for himself on his island, he replies that one over there is the synagogue I won’t go in. It is interesting that you used the metaphor of political parties, Valerie, because it implies a person has some agency in his/her affiliation. I don’t mean to privilege choosing the red pill over the blue one, but I don’t think we can reform the matrix (ideology of gender) that orders our lives without finding a way to step outside it.

                    • Soph

                      I totally agree with you.

                      Even those things I experience as innate don’t necessarily, well, inately have anything to do with gender, but because of /social construction/ are experienced by myself and by others as gendered. That doesn’t make my gender less legitimate than any cis person’s. It just means that I don’t give a fuck how many neurons are in my BST(c) or whatever. I know who I am and using biology to validate me is like hiding from a bee behind a wasp’s nest.

                      I think the popular conception of “gender identity” or worse, “subconcious sex” are psuedoscientific garbage that should have been left in John Money’s coffin instead of promoted as the appropriate way for trans people to explain and understand ourselves in the year 2011.

  16. I’m an artist who’s also a transwoman. I don’t go looking for queer/trans community art happenings because I find people whose primary identity to be The Transition to be immensely tedious. Instead I hang out in artsy circles that happen to be queer-friendly, and include a few other transpeople here and there.

    Maybe I’m just abusing my passing privilege. I dunno, I felt this way about most people whose work was exclusively about the transition when I didn’t have that, too.

    If you want to see awesome transwoman artist-activists in the Toronto area, then be one yourself. Start drawing, writing, filming, singing, curating, whatever it is you do; keep doing it until you undeniably kick ass at it. There might not be a community but at least there’ll be you. Put feelers out through your creative friends who are queer-friendly cisfolk rather than your transman circles, maybe you’ll find some other awesome artists who happen to be transwomen.

  17. BSINGER

    So the comment about gender being “the matrix” is interesting. Has anyone
    here ever closely studied the film? An analysis of the final segment’s screen shot is of digitized text that says “SYSTEM FAILURE.” As the camera moves in to an increasing close-up of the text, well, the final screen shot is simply:
    “M F.” Coincidence? People who study film say there are no accidental elements.

    • bonk

      in such a mainstream context, my guess is that MF = mutha fucka?

    • Poison Girl

      Considering that one of the directors later transitioned and the film tackles a lot of existentialist themes, I can see where a lot of the symbolism in the film is coded commentary on gender. But IDK, that could be me reading my own experiences in to the film.

      • Nah I agree with you I think there are a hundred tons of trans subtext in those movies.

  18. BSINGER

    Somebody pointed out to me that I referred to PQ writers as “PC writers.”
    Maybe I was thinking of Pretty Cuir, or…? Anyway, it was a typo. I definitely do not see this as a PC (in the bad sense) blogsite.

  19. Angie McAvoy

    Very well written article Morgan, unfortunately we live in a male dominated society, as an feminist activist, musician, arty creative, jack of all trades person, high school & college drop out. As trans women we need to start organizing our own events, to show the , male population who we are, they seek to demonize us, view us a sexual objects, refer to us as “Trannies”, it time we get the respect & dignity we deserve, its time to rise up & take what is ours, have our own “Trans Women Only Events” organized by us, is the best route to go, because then, we can showcase the talented trans women out there.

    Peace!!
    Angie

    • … I wish it were so simply unidirectional, as it would mesh nicely with my lesbianism, but I would humbly submit that there’s no male-run equivalent of AROOO and that this particular offshoot of the second-wave is alive and well in most places that are dependent on a theoretical backbone for community.

  20. Curiouser Jane

    OMG. remember that time that I fell in love with you? cause this is exactly how I feel as a trans woman artist/activist.

    • Morgan M. Page

      Remember that time that I appreciated your love? That time is now.

      ~M

      ps – Yer music is great!

  21. This piece brings up so much for me, it’s hard to have a response which isn’t entirely emotional. Nonetheless, thank you for posting it here, it is a brave piece of writing.

    The thing that struck me most was how much of it I could have written myself, ten or more years ago, and how little has changed. The bedroom is indeed the final frontier of social justice, and it breaks my heart to see other trans women facing the same kind of frustrations again and again. I’ve always had a sense that even if my experiences with cis queer communities have left deep scars and battered my sense of self, the space I was part of fighting for would mean the next generation of radical, queer trans women would have an easier go. It doesn’t seem like that is happening.

    I could go on about my own experiences in Toronto, and Vancouver before that, but until queer communities begin to own the systems of oppression they’ve inflicted on trans women’s lives it’d just be an anecdote which might reverberate with other trans women but be ignored by everyone else.

  22. Can you elaborate on the offenses committed by these other trans women in your area that caused them to be ostracized?

  23. “Do we have nothing to say about gender?”

    From the perspective of a cis-woman/lesbian, we do not have anything to say about the female gender. As a personal anecdote, consider the reaction of an acquaintance of mine (who also happens to be a self-identified lesbian dyke) to the rendition of the “Vagina Monologues” featuring Trans Women.

    I told her about it the performance and immediately her body language changed and her face contorted and then she said “I have problems with that since they weren’t born with the equipment…didn’t have periods… and and and”. This person would be first in line to hear trans men talk about their penises and what it was like to be a man I’m sure of it.

    What I’m trying to get at here is cis-women claim feel a sense of ownership and entitlement when it comes to womanhood in ways that men do not when it comes to manhood. That in part is why cis-men don’t get bent out of shape over trans men the way cis-women do over trans women.

    Cis-men will blow sky high though if it ever becomes a trend for straight women to start dating trans men…

    • I get what you’re saying here, and I do think it’s true that cis women get really posessive of “womanhood” (or “womynhood”) and can get pretty gross about it when it comes to responding to trans women. That’s a really great point you make!

      i think that, to say that cis men don’t do this to trans men might be a little ill-thought out. Cis men are obsessed with their penises and feel so threatened at the idea of losing it and trans men kind of represent losing it. I’ve met some really rad cis men who are not like that and who just treat me the same way they would any other friend (or date, if i’m dating them), but in my experience, those guys are the exception, but i think that to suggest that cis men are enlightened and don’t essentialize body parts is kind of, well, at least it’s not my experience.

  24. OMG, don’t do that! And please stay. Instead of regarding yourself as tokenized, if you agree with our politics and like working with us, then you belong here. I would like more girls in the clubhouse, too.

    Maybe we can open up our ideas of who belongs here, again. First, by defining what this “trans man space with the occasional smurfette” is about, in our ideals. Think of what we truly have in common–or in difference–that we value. Like having non-binary, fluid, or flexible approaches to gender. If femmes are welcome in the same space as trans men, all talking about gender, then ask femmes in, and ask them to help us find trans women. Ditto butches, or any other group that’s found its way to you and you want to include. Like class, culture, disability, and other identity markers, formal and not. Make inroads to the trans men who aren’t participating because of any one of those barriers, and you’ll also find trans women who were facing those same barriers to the conversation. In what ways does your group restrict access to participation and membership, that are necessary to its core purpose? In what ways do you accidentally restrict access to those you want to include? This is rich material for conversation. Thank you for opening it up… I see there has been a lot of positive response.

    • it seems like you may have missed the point a little.

      i get that you are not intentionally excluding trans women, but if you look around and there are no trans women there, it is not their fault, it’s yours. that goes for any situation where a subset of people are being excluded from a community.

      if you really want your group to be open and welcoming to trans women, try and think about why they might feel put off or unwelcome. i understand the value of gathering in communities of likeminded people, but sometimes that can get kind of narrow to really mean “people just like you,” and it’s easy to exclude people who might have otherwise been great assets to your community but feel excluded because they do not fit into the implied or explicit set of experiences or ideas required for membership.

      in queer community, i think it is very easy to get blinded by the fact that it’s not just diversity of bodies and experiences which make our communities awesome, but also diversity of ideas and values and interests. in order to really make an effective change in a group to make it more inclusive (not just in name), you need to be open to the fact that your group (not just the people in it, but the dynamics) could change and trust that that change will make your group stronger.

      i don’t think that sending femmes out into the world to lure trans women into your group is really the solution. apart from the fact that that’s a bit problematic, it puts the responsibility of fixing your group in someone else’s hands when what really needs to happen should come from your group as a whole changing.

      or you could just keep having a group/community that trans women don’t participate in and feel excluded from (not that i advocate for this, but you know, if you’re gonna exclude trans women, at least own it)

      • SOPH

        Thanks, Jackrad. I had my reply typed out but I held off on clicking Submit for an hour or so because I questioned how I was reading Justin’s comment.

      • Why does it have to be anybody’s “fault” if there are no trans women in your group, or only one? I talked about examining the reasons why you have exclusions, implicit or explicit. Yet you’re repeating that to me in your reply, unless I’m misunderstanding you. A group is going to consist of people who think of themselves as having something important in common. If some of that mission is underrepresented, then you should look around at who did show up and ask them, maybe they know. Is that an impolitic suggestion?

        • SOPH

          It’s not necessarily impolite, but it’s /more/ than impolite to put the people you’re trying to “make inroads with” in the position of always having to deal with this kind of textbook defensiveness every time we take the trouble to start answering your questions. Like I said, you’re answering them yourself whether you realize it or not.

        • When trans women don’t show up to events hosted and promoted by trans men as trans events, it’s not an accident. Pretending like it’s just a coincidence or random occurrance that no trans women showed up implicitly places blame on trans women for not coming to your events. So even if no one verbally assigns fault, it is implied that it’s not your fault, but the fault of trans women.

          I’m not trying to attack you, building an inclusive group is hard work and there’s always more you could do. My book club is having issues right now with not being inclusive of people who have cat allergies. That doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or that my book club is bad, it means that we need to think about the fact that in order to include members with cat allergies, we need to reimagine how the group will work a little. Is it more important to stick to the original plan of having potlucks in people’s houses, or is it more important to find a way to include the voices and participation of a couple people who have cat allergies? It’s just about being willing to reexamine and reimagine and also be accountable for stuff.

          and yeah, examining your group internally, like you said, is a good start. but it’s not just about thinking about different ways to market your group to get different people to show up. you gotta consider group dynamics and the group itself too.

          • I have wheezing-bad cat allergies that were aggravated by a bronchitis I had when I was about ten… are these people deathly allergic to antihistamines too?

          • I’m agreeing with you about accountability and accidents. I’m also saying that it’s not a given that, in this example, for instance, that “all trans women” are part of your in-group. It may be more important, though unexamined, that your new members be able to pronounce the shibboleths, and hold enough of the same views to form coalition.

            • “in-group.” maybe it’s a leftover reaction from high school, but that term kinda makes me cringe a little.

              i get what you’re saying and i think it’s valuable to form groups based on common interest. once i played an all trans game of dungeons and dragons and it was really fun. including people who had no interest in dungeons and dragons in that group would have sort of missed the point of the group. if i was trans and a republican, i could see that it would possibly benefit me to form a group of trans republicans for discussion/support/common interest etc.

              i think it can get dangerous, though, when you start to do that. isn’t that kind of the same logic that pro-policy (or “intention”) folks at michfest use to exclude trans women–or at least not too far off. i’m not comparing your group to them–i don’t know you or your group, i’m just saying that that’s the kind of thinking that starts the ball rolling for that sort of exclusion.

              one thing i will say, though, about the orignal article is that it is an article written by a trans woman talking about feeling excluded from or pushed out of trans-type groups because she is a trans woman. i think it’s pretty safe to say that if someone is interested in coming to an event and feels excluded, there’s something wrong. anything that aids in that exclusion of someone who actually wants to come is something you should think about examining.

              (if someone had a trans republicans meeting, i would know it wasn’t for me, but i also wouldn’t feel excluded because i’m not a trans republican and have no interest in attending. if someone was having a trans republican meeting and i was a trans republican and still felt excluded by the messaging of your group, then there’s a problem, you know?)

              • I read the original essay above differently: not as a trans woman who feels excluded, but as a trans woman who wonders why she’s the only trans woman among her chosen cohort. I don’t have a formal group, just people who I’m friends with, and people I do work with. My advice in my original comment was not just for the author of this post, but for anyone who’s wondering about their group of peers. What is it that binds you? For the woman who wrote this, it sounded like her peers had in common that they are trans, and also that they are doing cool things in art and politics. They probably have similar experiences in other ways that allow them to talk easily. Wanting greater inclusion in our groups is an admirable goal, but why do you want it? I don’t mean you, Jack, I mean a general “you.” Who do you want to hear from? As you point out, a trans D&D group doesn’t want to hear from the trans people who don’t LARP. Or know what LARP means. A student organization has to wonder what it’s doing if they’re reaching way off campus for, say, sex workers who are not also students, they think belong to their group. On what grounds do they belong, and will you accept them as they are, or make them change so they fit?

                • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                  Yes. I believe you completely read Morgan’s essay incorrectly. I have little more to add that jackrad, Valerie, and Soph have crisply put together. OK, there is one thing.

                  Interestingly, how you describe and defend your group and its chemistry, Justin, is reminiscent of what a long-time friend of mine, who has completed one of her courses at Smith, said of Janice Raymond’s brutal thesis in The Transsexual Empire about men taking over women’s spaces. Paraphrasing her, “Janice was right. Men have basically taken over women’s spaces, but she got one crucial detail wrong: those men are trans men, not trans women being called ‘men’. And it’s impossible to challenge them because, given how most of them are white, they have just re-assembled the old patriarchy within the queer realm now that they have experienced some of that benefit from that patriarchy and from suddenly being atop the heap.” When she said this, my jaw fell open. It was like being hit by a truck of eye-opening, but sobering revelation.

                  Bear in mind that this is coming from somebody who is butch and increasingly feels as if being butch in dyke space today is one step removed from being a crime: she said you’re supposed to either “femme-down” or “man-up” (or maybe that’s “tran-up”) in order to belong in 2011 dyke space. She’s been out and active in the lesbian community for almost twenty years, so I don’t think she’s pulling that observation out of thin air.

                  Did I mention she is also trans? Oh, no. I suppose I didn’t.

              • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                Increasingly so (with each comment and with each essay I read), I’m really beginning to like your substance. Substance is more important than style, but you’ve got that, too.

                Keep up the good work, good sir.

                • was that meant for me? if so thanks.

                  i always really enjoy your comments too!

                  • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

                    Yes, that was meant for you. :)

                    Just don’t let it go to your head. ;)

                    • haha, of course :p

    • Soph

      Honestly, it’s not a woman’s job to help you reform your clubhouses. If you know there is something wrong, it’s your responsibility to examine your group dynamic instead of finding people to tokenize and do the work for you. Being “included” does not equal feeling safe, enjoying oneself, or thriving. It doesn’t stop being a Boy’s Club when you invite a couple of girls. And nice use of “femmes” implicitly meaning “cis femmes” there. I think you have the answers to your own questions.

      • “And nice use of “femmes” implicitly meaning “cis femmes” there.”

        That pissed me off too.

      • you took the words right out of my mouth. YES!

        • Nice language policing, everyone.

          • SOPH

            Nice dismissiveness, dudebro.

          • Yeah, how dare we call someone out on the oldest ‘progressive’ cissexist construction in the book. (i.e. women and transwomen [sic])

            • Because I think you’re wasting your time policing my language, when we could be talking about something else. For instance, what you and everyone else who found their way to this blog post have in common? I suspect it is a more exclusive construction than you might enjoy priding yourself in. Having left off a “cis” that I didn’t strictly intend doesn’t make me a bad trans activist, or femme ally.

              • SOPH

                Why don’t you leave it to trans women to decide what is a valuable use of our time?

                And it /does/ suggest that you have some implicit ideas about trans women and femmes that help to create the kind of environment a lot of us stay away from. Along with the generally paternalistic attitude you’ve shown here.

              • Poison Girl

                Really good job at not listening to people and using concern troll tactics to distract from whatever problematic thing you do.

                Your post should be incorporated in to a “How to be a totally dismissive jerk and prevent people from challenging your privilege” at activist gatherings, not that most activists need any schooling, but it’s always useful to keep current in the current methodology.

          • Wow, I am super impressed at the coalition-building skills that you have displayed right here in this forum! Now that you have helped established this community of mutual respect for everyone’s input, please offer us all more wisdom about how to work in groups!

            • BlaydenWaydonLeydon

              The drier the wit, ever the better.

              (Oh, and l’shanah tovah!) :)

              • Lucian

                A zissen yahr!

  25. Excellent, true, and brave!

  26. Jensen

    Maybe you should move to London, Ontario. We seem to be balanced in the opposite way.

  27. J.A. B.

    My God, Morgan, this sums up just about exactly what I (a trans woman who sometimes hangs around in queer spaces mostly made up of cis women, with the few trans people who are there usually being either trans men or masculine faab genderqueer people) sometimes can’t help but think and feel. Thanks for putting it into words, because I couldn’t. Also you are pretty hot, not hitting on you, but you are.

  28. casey

    morgan,
    trans women get treated like shit, particularly trans dykes, by the so called trans “community”, and it pisses me off. as a gay trans boy (i dissociate with “man” in all of its macho dude brutality) who dates an utterly sissy cis queer boy, we are not exactly welcome in this world either. as i’m sure you’ve experienced, any events for trans people bill itself as “trans and women!!” which inevitably means trans men who like to be macho dudebros and the so-called “lesbians” who drool all over them while treating trans women like shit (while the trans men despise nelly queers like me, thinking we’re not “really trans” and try to bar my cis fag boyfriend from the door because he makes them “uncomfortable”, when really, they make ME uncomfortable by saying that a faggot like myself isn’t “really” trans). it all pisses me the hell off. i wish we could all unite and create a space for trans women, queer/fem trans men, and those allies within and outside of the trans community who don’t hate us. I wish “Macho Mike” the trans bro and his “lesbian” girlfriend “Cissy” would just stop policing our identities.

    • ILikeEggs

      “i dissociate with “man” in all of its macho dude brutality”
      There is something seriously wrong with this statement.
      To paraphrase a friend, patriarchy is still patriarchy even if it’s wearing glitter and a bowtie.

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